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Eye on the Redskins: Breaking Down the Matchup

cruz-center-122916.jpg's Michael Eisen scouts the opposing Offense, Defense, and Special Teams:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Their postseason ticket stamped, the Giants will conclude their regular season when they face the Washington Redskins Sunday in FedEx Field. The 10-5 Giants are locked into both a second-place finish in the NFC East and the fifth seed in the conference playoffs. Washington, 8-6-1, can make the playoffs with a victory, as long as the Detroit-Green Bay game on Sunday night does not end in a tie. On Sept. 25, the Redskins handed the Giants their only loss in MetLife Stadium this season, 29-27. The Giants lead the alltime series, 97-66-4. They are 10-8-1 in FedEx Field.

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What is the Redskins' biggest strength?

Their passing game, particularly their deep passing game. When Washington's offense is hitting on all cylinders, it is the NFL's most explosive attack. The home run ball is a big part of what they do. The Redskins' 64 completions of 20 or more yards this season is the league's second-highest total, behind Atlanta's 66.

They have six completions of 50 or more yards in the last six games. Kirk Cousins, who is playing the best football of his career, is second in the NFL with 4,630 yards. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Washington moves down the field by throwing the ball to all levels. Jamison Crowder, who leads the team with seven touchdown receptions, routinely turns short passes into long gains. Pierre Garcon, who has a team-high 75 receptions, and tight ends Jordan Reed (a Pro Bowler) and Vernon Davis work the intermediate areas. The ever-dangerous DeSean Jackson is the deep threat. The Redskins also have a productive screen game.

Which player is key to the Redskins' offense?

Forced to choose one, we'll take Jackson. As the Giants well know, he is a game-wrecker who boasts a team-best 18.0-yard per-catch average. In the last six games, he's had more than five catches just once – but Jackson exceeded 100 yards four times; had receptions of 57, 59, 67 and 80 yards; and scored three touchdowns. He has 26 career touchdowns of 50 or more yards (including returns). The Giants must keep track of him at all times.

What is the strength of the Redskins' offense?

No NFL offensive line gets more attention and credit than the one in Dallas, but Washington's five-man front belongs in any conversation of the league's best lines. It is an underrated reason the Redskins' offense is ranked third in the NFL in yards-per-game (411.3) and second in passing yards (300.8). The line is staffed with big, strong, physical players. Left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff are Pro Bowlers. New center Spencer Long is 6-5 and 324 pounds and significantly larger than the man he replaced, 6-2 and 296-pound Kory Lichtensteiger. Left guard Shawn Lauvao is 326 pounds and right tackle Morgan Moses checks in at 6-6, 335 pounds. They have opened enough gaping holes for Washington's new No. 1 running back, rookie Robert Kelly, to rush for 671 yards and six touchdowns.

Which player is key to the Redskins' defense?

"Players". Plural. Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland are superb cover corners who also relish delivering a hard hit. In the last eight games, Norman has 10 passes defenses and two interceptions, and in his last six contests, Breeland has seven and two. Opposing teams looking to pick on a supposedly weaker corner have difficulty choosing one when they face Washington.

What is the strength of the Redskins' defense?

Their relentless pass rush, which harasses quarterbacks from all directions. Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with 11.0 sacks. Trent Murphy, who has played superbly for several weeks, has 8.0 and has been credited with a team-high 42 quarterback hits. Chris Baker and Preston Smith (who had a sack and three hits last Saturday in a victory in Chicago) also apply persistent pressure.

What player is key to the Redskins' special teams?

Crowder, who is not only an outstanding player, but is having a career year as a punt returner. His 13.1-yard average ties him with Kansas City's Tyreek Hill for No. 1 in the league. Crowder had an 85-yard return for a touchdown vs. Baltimore.

Based on the scouting report, the Giants must do this one thing to win:

Prevent Washington's high-flying offense from taking off, and in particular, limit the damage by their collection of explosive players. It is unwise to get in a shootout with this team.

Statistics you should know:

  1. Washington has 20 three-and-outs on 162 offensive possessions, an NFL-low 12.3 percent.
  1. Cousins has set Washington single-season records this season with 571 passes, 384 completions, 4,630 yards and seven 300-yard games (the latter tying the mark he set last season).
  1. Eli Manning and Cousins have each thrown the same number of passes, 571.

A look at the expected starters for the Giants' Week 17 opponent

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